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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 12, 2001

12 December 2001
President Shaimiev Warns Against 'Hasty' Changes To Russian Constitution...
Tatarstan's president, Mintimer Shaimiev, told Interfax on 11 December that the present Russian Constitution was adopted during a "complicated period," adding,"[I]t it played a great stabilizing role in the life of Russia at that time." Saying it would be necessary to change that document in the future, he nevertheless added that such amendments should not be done in the current environment. "Hasty attempts to change the fundamental law themselves represent violations of the law," he warned.

Shaimiev said "discussions about entering fundamental changes to the Russian Constitution are premature, as its potential is far from being exhausted." Specifically, he said, many provisions must still be implemented, such as articles on power-sharing between Moscow and the federation's territories.

President Promotes Longer Term In Office For Russian President
President Shaimiev said four years was an excessively brief term for the Russian presidency, then suggested a five-year term as "the most suitable, given that we still live under conditions of a transition period." Shaimiev cited the example of France, which extended its presidential term to seven years in the wake of World War II. He said the necessary constitutional amendment could be made in time for 2004 elections.

State, Kazan City Councils Agree On Further Necessity To Promote Tatar Language In Schools
A joint session between a republican and a Kazan commission on education and cultural issues took up debate on implementation of a law on languages in the Tatar capital on 11 December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. State Council Deputy Tufan Minnulin stressed that both Russian and Tatar language learning are suffering from cultural neglect. Minnulin offered to open separate schools for Tatar and Russian children so that both languages are revived under what he considers more conducive conditions.

Tatarstan Education Minister Faris Kharisov disagreed with Minnulin, arguing that "more attention should be paid to promoting Tatar language teaching in regular schools."

Shaimiev's 'Negative' Press Eclipsed By That Of Other Regional Leaders agency published a rating list of Russian politicians most frequently mentioned by regional media in the past week -- including whether such coverage was "positive" or "negative." President Shaimiev was given an 11 percent "negative rating," far behind Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov (61 percent) and Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed (28 percent).

Foreign Trade Still Dominated By Raw Materials Exports
Tatarstan's minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation, Khafiz Salikhov, said on 11 December that Tatarstan's foreign trade in 2001 has been dominated by exports. He said exports made up 89 percent of the turnover and imports the other 11 percent. Exports continue to be dominated by oil and oil products.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Federal Subsidies Said To Cover Just Part Of Bashkortostan's Social Security Costs
Minnireis Ishmuratov, deputy chairman of the Legislative Chamber in Bashkortostan's State Assembly, says federal subsidies will only "partially cover the cost of social security [spending] for Bashkortostan residents" in 2002. He was quoted by RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 11 December. Previous reports have indicated that Moscow will transfer some 6.8 billion rubles ($227 million) to Bashkortostan to assist in the federal tax reform transition period. [Note to readers: agency incorrectly reported that figure as 8.6 billion rubles on 10 December.]

Finance Minister Pledges Tight Fiscal Policy In 2002
Speaking to RFE/RL's corespondent the same day, Bashkortostan Finance Minister Foat Khantimerov said the 2002 draft budget was "especially hard to work on, because we had to rethink every kopeck of expenditures." He said municipal budgets throughout the republic should not expect any extra transfers aside from the sums stipulated in their budgets.

Aircraft Producer Unveils Newest Military Machines
Bashkortostan-based Kumertau Aircraft Plant unveiled a new model of its Ka-226 gunship at an international air fair in Moscow on 11 December. The helicopter is built using composite materials which, the company boasts, allow it extended load capacities due to its reduced weight. Kumertau also presented a military intelligence drone with a range of 150 kilometers.

Bashkir Servicemen Return Safely From Chechnya
A group of servicemen from Bashkortostan returned home after serving three months in the Chechen Republic, Bashinform reported on 11 December. No losses were reported among the officers, who were involved in 93 combat situations and ambushed twice while guarding oil pipelines and oil wells.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi